Northside avenges earlier loss to Eagles
By Joseph Myers
Special To The Ledger-Enquirer
When the Northside Lady Patriots last faced the Northside-Warner Robins Lady Eagles, the date was Sept. 8 and Northside-Warner Robins beat the Lady Patriots in two straight games.
The Lady Patriots and Lady Eagles met again Thursday night in Columbus -- this time in the opening round of the GHSA Class AAAAA state volleyball tournament -- but the outcome was different, as the Lady Patriots outlasted the Lady Eagles, 25-21, 19-25, 28-26, 25-21 to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time
in program history.
"The first time we played them was a rough day for us," Northside sophomore setter Carly Smart said.
"I think (Northside-Warner Robins) underestimated us coming into this match. Instead of worrying about what they might try to do, we just focused on ourselves."
The win sends Northside into the second round Tuesday, where the Lady Patriots will face either Allatoona or North Atlanta.
If the opponent is Allatoona -- the likely opponent as the Lady Buccaneers were the Area 5 champs -- Northside will travel to Acworth for the second-round match.
If North Atlanta -- the No. 4 team from Area 6 -- is the opponent, the Lady Patriots will host the match.
"When this team has battled back this season, it's gone on to win matches," Northside coach Carrie Powers said.
"It's just how they've been all year long and tonight was another example of that. These girls have worked hard all summer, coming to conditioning and summer practices three times a week and playing club volleyball, too. That has really helped a lot of them get experience, even though they're only sophomores and juniors."
Northside (14-9) took Game 1, 25-21, but the Lady Eagles came back to even the match by taking Game 2, 25-19.
Northside-Warner Robins ran out to a 10-4 lead in Game 3, forcing Powers to call a timeout.
It was after that timeout the Lady Patriots slowly fought their way back into the game. Finally, Northside went on an 11-1 run to go up 22-15 and seemingly take control of the game.
However, Northside-Warner Robins came back and tied the game at 24, 25 and 26 -- staving off four Northside game points in the process.
The Lady Patriots were finally able to land the knockout punch in the game, getting a block from Smart and Christina Bonner -- one of only two seniors on Northside's 12-player roster -- and a kill from Arielle Owens on their fifth game point to take Game 3, 28-26.
"We got behind, but we worked together and came together as one," Northside junior outside hitter Lindsay Shirah said.
"We just had to dig ourselves out of a big hole and we were able to outsmart them."
The team went back and forth in the early stages of Game 4 before Northside went on a 9-2 run to open up a 19-11 advantage. Northside-Warner Robins (25-19) refused to go quietly, making a 9-1 run to tie the game at 20.
Northside reached down one last time and made a final push, getting three kills from Shirah, blocks by Shirah and Daijah Fullwood and a hitting error by the Lady Eagles to close the match with a 5-1 run to win Game 4 and the match, 25-21.
"We really stuck together and played as one tonight," said Smart, who finished with 34 assists and four aces.
"I had to trust my hitters to put the ball down, my passers had to trust me to get the sets done and I had to trust my passers to get me the ball in a good position."
Shirah led the Lady Patriots with 18 kills, Bonner had 10 kills and six blocks, Owens added 10 kills and freshman Katelynn Ellis pitched in nine digs and two aces in the victory.
"When this team puts its mind to it, it can accomplish huge things," said Powers. "I think we shocked some teams around here this year with the things we've done and in the next round, we'll be looking to do the same up in the Atlanta area, too."
Thursday at Northside
Northside-WR 21 25 26 21
Northside 25 19 28 25
Leaders: Northside - Carly Smart 34 assists, 4 aces; Lindsay Shirah 18 kills; Christina Bonner 10 kills, 6 blocks; Arielle Owens 10 kills; Katelynn Ellis 9 digs, 2 aces.
Records: Northside-Warner Robins 25-19, Northside 14-9 Next: Northside vs. Allatoona-North Atlanta winner in second round Tuesday.